J. L. Crowe Secondary students could be wearing pink shirts every day, if recent Grade 8 results to an anti-bullying survey is any indication.
A national statistic on stopabully.ca finds that 12 per cent of students report an incident per week, but student counsellor Loretta Jones says the amount of bullying at the Trail high school is generally much lower.
But that doesn’t mean students and teachers are sitting idle as the problem persists in other schools across the country.
Leadership Grade 11 students Andrea Bedin and Madeline Tuai along with Grade 10 students Kate and Gina Oostlander and Kyla Mears have planned a number of activities for this Wednesday’s Pink Shirt Day.
The team will be posting inspirational messages on sticky notes throughout the school, greeting their classmates as they enter the building, handing out “Fearlessly Crowe” bracelets and asking teens to sign their name to a paper hand, which will later be part of giant “ERASE” (Expect Respect and A Safe Education) collage. They’ll also be selling pink-inspired cupcakes during lunch hour, with proceeds going to two youth-empowering summits planned for this spring.
Though sporting pink this Wednesday is a nice gesture to symbolize that society will not tolerate bullying anywhere, the school’s work to erase it starts early on.
Discussion on healthy relationships start when the incoming Grade 8 class completes a survey for the provincial program ERASE, a comprehensive prevention and intervention strategy, and every two years when Crowe’s entire student population completes a Safe at School Survey.
The focus really started last year and amped up this fall and into December, when students often rolled their eyes at yet another anti-bullying activity.
“I think we have a great reputation for the most part,” said Jones.
“But when you talk about bullying, I think the overall perception, by kids in general, is that there is a problem with bullying because in general it has been in the media.”
Such was the case found last year when 91 per cent of all student parents reported that their child felt safe at school but 79 per cent said there is a mild to moderate problem with bullying at Crowe.
The convoluted response led Jones to believe that perception can often overrule reality and has only further piqued her interest in the topic she delved into for her capstone project, a requirement for a Masters Degree.
“My passion is this because I deal with it in my everyday life a lot and that’s not to say bullying happens everyday but conflict does,” said Jones.
This year’ survey, completed by only Grade 8 students and their parents, spoke more true to what the case is in the high school’s hallways, said Jones. About 97 per cent of Grade 8s reported that they felt safe in school often or always, while their parents (nearly 97 per cent) were confident in student and staff efforts to make the school a safe place.
“We’ve all been bullied before, in tiny little ways,” said Grade 10 student Gina Oostlander.
But have you?
Bullying is defined as a deliberate action meant to hurt another student. It’s often a repeated action and is done by a person in a position of power, either socially or physically. It’s different from peer conflict and meanness.
“People fight and we need to say ‘that’s healthy, that’s OK and here is the right way to deal with it,’” said Jones. “It’s not ‘I’m mad at you and now I’m going to go sit on my phone and gather my posse around.’”
The survey revealed another contradictory fact at Crowe. Unlike what is happening nationally, verbal and social bullying were more common forms of bullying taking place at the school, with a minimal amount of physical bullying and the common form of bullying in schools nationally: electronic (cyber).
Areas of improvement under the ERASE program include an effort from a bystander to step up during a bullying situation.
“Fifteen per cent of our students did not know what to do if they were being bullied or if they saw bullying and I would like to see this percentage go down to zero,” said Jones.
It’s important for the students to have a voice, she added, and that’s why student-driven events and projects are popping up in the hallways at Crowe. Besides the Leadership students planning Pink Shirt Day, Grade 12 student Jade Lewis has been tasked with writing the student code of conduct on the walls.
She feels privileged to add the first mark to a new school with “Jade’s Art Attack,” stylized text paintings that will be painted in Crowe’s existing circular design elements. The project was kickstarted by a youth action grant from the Columbia Basin Trust.
“This grant gives me the opportunity to blast the walls with some colour,” said Lewis. “Hopefully giving students motivation to work harder and respect each other in a space where they can relax and be social.
“To bring bold colours into the space to portray the student code of conduct will surely brighten people’s day.”